Vader brought their Empire to London this Monday night and blitzed the Dome with a set drawn from their new, best yet, album and some classic tracks too from the Polish Death masters. Vader frontman and leader Piotr Wiwczarek invited The Abyss onto his tour bus for a cosy chat and told us wondrous tales of empirical proportions.
Words: Jools Green
Here’s the full conversation, followed by the lowdown of what was a rather superb evening’s entertainment.
‘The Empire’ is one Hell of an album (ten out of ten on MetalTalk) so how’s it doing in Europe? Are you selling well?
Piotr: “I know nothing about that and I don’t really care about that. We don’t create music to satisfy 100% of everybody because that doesn’t make sense and it’s not possible so we create particular music which is pretty brutal and intense and whether you love it or hate it is your choice. We don’t push people to love it but we’re artists so we like to hear good things about it, of course, more than the bad things. [laughs]
“The radio is really, really good so far, surprisingly, but it’s motivating that even after three decades of existence we can still satisfy people and even the younger generation as well. It’s the best thing that can happen to a band.”
Vader have a British drummer, James Stewart from Reading, and Piotr is clearly emamoured with Jimmy’s artistic contribution to ‘The Empire’.
“Jimmy is the young soul of the band and his drumming is pretty much the strongest part of the album, definitely and Jimmy is satisfied, I think…”
Jimmy: “Yeah – we just tried to make it better and different but still Vader, still brutal and still heavy and still fast.”
Piotr: “Perfect words. We tried to make something different and these songs from the album are definitely going to sound way more brutal live than on the album.
“‘The Empire’ is definitely the most different album, if we can compare the songs to previous works and live, they will be mixed with some Vader strong points from the previous albums and they should feed into the whole set. Since at least a few albums ago, we think about how the new songs are going to be compared to the others, or with the others…”
Jimmy: “It’s got to fit into the live set. It has to be in keeping with everything that has come before. It can’t sound out of place but it’s also got to be something different because if you play the same songs over and over again, people aren’t going to enjoy themselves at the shows.”
Piotr: “We’re not focussed just on speed, or just on slow; it’s very intense and brutal since the very beginning but we don’t want to kill people with the noise, so we try to make this show with some ‘moments’ so we added songs like ‘Iron’, ‘Rain’, which is a slow song, between songs like ‘Cold Demons’ or ‘Parabellum’ from the new album which are very fast. We try to think like a fan in the moshpit and it works so far.
“Sometimes we change it. We start with some ideas but we change it by watching the crowd and seeing the reaction. We feel that we should give as much satisfaction as possible, not just for us but for the fans.”
Legendary Motörhead album sleeve designer Joe Petagno is the man responsible for the artwork on ‘The Empire’ and Piotr related how working with Joe came about.
“I asked Joe to make an EP cover, the ‘Iron Times’ EP, because this was the only chance to bring out something fresh in the summer season because we already knew the album was going to be delayed and there was no chance to hear anything fresh until November so the only way to play something new was to release something like a single and we added something to it, the Motörhead style cover.
“Unfortunately Lemmy died and he was such an important person for everybody, especially in the Metal society, and that was the best dedication to him, his personality and his band. Everybody knows that Joe Petagno made the classic covers for Motörhead so I asked him to make it Vader but keep in mind the Motörhead style.
“The album is a different story because at first I asked Dan Seagrave, the artist who made the cover for our debut album, ‘The Ultimate Incantation’ in 1992, and he started work but unfortunately he informed me a week before we were supposed to give away the whole album with the cover and everything that he stopped and was going to continue work in late September because he was focussed on an exhibition in New York and that was a not good thing because actually the delay of the album was because of that.
“Joe Petagno, he saved the situation – I love this man and his personality works of course. He left everything to focus on this for three weeks so that was a good thing. I gave him some tunes and some new lyrics so he could get an impression and this time I just asked for some symbolic things I wished to keep on the cover like some connection with a couple of movies, ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Game Of Thrones’, and you can see that on the cover when you take a first look. And of course he gave all this typical Joe Petagno style in the background, which I love.”
And of course we are all aware of the Vader/’Star Wars’ connection…
“Well I know the band is called Vader and the album is named ‘The Empire’… [laughs]… I am a ‘Star Wars’ fan, of course, but it’s not like that, with one exception. There is a song called ‘Genocidius’ [from ‘The Empire’] and you can hear the empirical theme from the soundtrack and it’s probably the first and last time I made like a straight connection with the movie and even in the lyrics you can see some words spoken by Yoda, ‘hate leads to hate…’
“The empirical feeling is a main theme for the whole album… what’s going on in Europe and in the world right now, it’s kind of madness, rebuilding the walls between nations, dividing the people again, starting another Cold War between East and West, it’s just madness, so even if we’re not judging, we’re just trying to think about that and to put this into these stories.
“The band name came from ‘Star Wars’ but actually, if I knew about the story, if I knew about Anakin Skywalker I would probably have never called it like that. [laughs]
“This mystical, powerful person from the dark side was a perfect explanation of what Vader is as a Metal band and the name, Vader, sounds like ‘father’ and nobody knew in those days that we’d become a father in the Metal scene. Some things nobody can foresee.”
England has a special place in Piotr’s heart and he’s delighted to be back playing here again.
“It’s always good to be back here. England to me is way more than the new generation of Metalheads because so many bands who defined me in the past came from here, like Judas Priest, Saxon actually started here so without England it wouldn’t be Metal at all, or it would be totally different.
“We really love to play here and the size of the stage doesn’t matter. Sometimes the small place when the crowd knows what they came for is way better than some huge festival when you’re one of a hundred bands playing one after the other.
“It’s about feeling. Metal is all about feeling, about emotions…”
Vader and Immolation co-headline Bristol Deathfest on Saturday 15th April 2017.
With the promise of a superb evening of Metal at The Dome ahead, the hard and often thankless task of warming up the crowd went to UK outfit Concrete Age who brought their rather interesting brand of Death/Thrash with an ethnic twist. That comes from a Tibetan influence, mixed with a melodic technical edged groove and offset with a rasping vocal delivery.
It gave the assembling masses something to ponder over their pints and started the evening off in a positive way.
The audience were still a little reticent but appreciative as US atmospheric Death Metallers Lords Of War hit the stage but the irresistibly brutal nature of their set delivery, their crushing riffs and brutal vocals continually enlivened the crowd as their set progressed, eventually instigating some, albeit loose, pit action, the evening now panning out rather nicely.
Lords Of War
Canadian quartet Threat Signal were the wild card band and were hugely enjoyed by a now lively audience. Their very modern sounding technical edged Metalcore sound translates well to a live scenario and got more than a few heads nodding. Given the number of people singing along they had a pretty decent chunk of the audience well onboard with them.
US Death Metal veterans Hate Eternal had the honour of the main support slot, an apt choice, as they hit the stage like a hurricane, delivering a set that was brutally intense. Circle headbanging was de rigueur and they instigated a lively but loose pit which is the real proof that backs up just how good a performance is. It’s that point when you see people staggering out of the pit grinning from ear to ear.
What can you say about a band that, certainly in all the countless times I’ve seen them, never disappoint. This was, for me, probably the best yet from a band that can read their audience and deliver a set appropriate to the environment.
Clocking up thirty-three years, Polish Death Thrash dynamos Vader are masters of their craft. The set put a strong focus on the newest album ‘The Empire’ as well as older favourites including ‘Triumph Of Death’ from 2014s ‘Tibi et Igni’.
The new material was well received and people certainly had familiarised themselves with the lyrics in the ten days since the release of ‘The Empire’ and there was a more that healthy pit happening behind me from my stage front vantage point.
The set was delivered with the usual Vader flawless speed, precision and fire. Yet another superb and memorable performance and I have over three hundred and fifty people who will back me up on that. All in all a super evening of Metal!